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Stress Relief

Posted on Tue Sep 22nd, 2020 @ 1:08am by Captain Liarra Von & Lieutenant Commander Marit Lantry M.D., Ph.D.

Mission: Who Watches The Watchers
Location: Commanding Officer's Office, Deck 12

Marit didn't often trouble the Captain. After all, the base was huge and there was plenty of people to relay information up and down the command chain as needed. That was, in fact, a necessity, considering all the responsibilities each department carried. Any senior officer worth his or her salt respected the chain and knew how to delegate, trusting issues would be identified and shared as needed.

The reality of the base's size, however, was also a double edged sword. More people meant more distance between the rank and file and those at the top, which could breed isolation and loneliness, things counselors had to guard against.
Hence, she found herself outside the Captain's office, desiring a chance to catch up on all things professional but also to check on the woman with so much on her shoulders. She rang the chime.

Liarra barely looked in the direction of her transparent aluminum door as she waved the newcomer in. Her attention was focused on the face in front of her on her desk console, but she was anxious to move on to anything else. "Yes, I understand that you're upset, Captain, but my people are doing everything that they can to take care of the problem." The Rigellian began to speak but Von shook her head to stop him. "We have been through this before and you know that. We deal with enough traffic as it is. I don't need my dockmasters worried about personal conflicts. Either take the berth that's offered to you, or you're going to have to be patient and wait for the next one to open up. It's your choice, but I'm not going to have this argument with you every time you are both here. It's not my fault that your routes intersect. Either deal with it, or find another starbase for your resupply."

The Rigellian huffed. "Very well, Captain. If you're not going to be flexible, then I will note that in my review."

Von sighed. "Just be sure to mention why you demanded special treatment when you do. Please be sure to alert docking control when you have made your decision, Captain. Now if you'll excuse me, I have actual business to attend to." She flashed him a smile, which only aggravated the Rigellian even more. "Von out." Liarra closed the channel and her smile went away immediately. She only then looked up to see who had stepped inside. "Doctor Lantry, please come in. What can I do for you?"

Catching the end of the conversation, Lantry couldn't help but wonder how such a dispute had made it all the way to the Captain, but she acknowledged some things and some people would only take intervention from the top. It had to be exhausting dealing with the same disputes over and over. She offered a small smile. "Actually, Captain, I came by to see if there was anything I could do for you. This place is so big with so many people, it's pretty easy to stay in your own lane without much regular interaction with the command staff. While my departmental spies are pretty good at keeping their fingers on the pulse of the crew, I figured from time to time I should check in with the people at the top to see if they had any specific concerns we are not addressing? I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but it sounds like that last conversation was pretty frustrating."

Liarra waved her hand to dismiss the claim. "It's not the first time we've had to deal with him. Apparently his husband had left him for a rival freighter captain. They both just so happen to have routes that take them through this sector. And occasionally they are here at the same time, which this one finds frustrating. And even more occasionally, the only berths available for their sizes of ship happen to be right next to each other. And he thinks we're doing it on purpose."

"It sounds like the man could use some therapy," Marit replied, only half in jest. She caught herself and then chuckled, "I appear to be really good at making work for myself today. In all seriousness, though, if you need any help with him, I'd be happy to listen and let him vent to take him off your plate."

Liarra smiled. "Be careful what you wish for, Doctor. I'd be happy to send him your way, but I have a feeling that it's not going to do a lot of good. I don't think he wants to listen. I think he just wants to complain. Though who knows, maybe you can help him cope with the end of his marriage." Von shrugged. "In any case, I'm sure you don't want to hear about some argumentative freighter captain."

"If talking about him relieves some of your stress, I'm happy to be of service," the counselor replied with a smile. " I promise I won't stay in your hair for a long, but I thought I would just check in and see how you're doing. It occurred to me we haven't talked in a while and with everything that's happened, I figured you might be stressed more than usual. Please, call me Marit if you like. I'm not one for formalities unless absolutely necessary."

Liarra nodded. "It's certainly been challenging of late. If you can call having the station fall into a wormhole and getting attacked by a swarm of space bugs challenging. I have to admit, it was not a situation that I thought I would find myself into when I took command."

Marit chuckled. "I joined Starfleet to get away from bugs." More seriously, she offered, "I know there have been a lot of personnel changes and a great deal has fallen on your shoulders as we've either been without people we've needed or while new people were settling in. I know we're still getting to know each other, but I wondered, how are you really doing?"

Von considered the question for a moment. While she didn't really want to talk about her insecurities to a member of her crew, she understood that there was a reason why Starfleet had counselors. And she knew Marit well enough to know that she could probably see through her attempted facade. "Getting to know the new crew is challenging enough. I know all of them are worried about impressing me, but I can't help but be concerned about me impressing them. I got tossed into this position during a difficult situation. And it seems that my tenure has been nothing but difficult situations."

"And you're worried you're not meeting the challenges?" Marit asked, giving voice to what she wondered might Von's fears. She didn't want to put words in her mouth, so she waited for a sign of agreement before pressing on.

Liarra shrugged. "Maybe. I'll be honest, command of a starbase wasn't necessarily in my career plan. When the Sojourners bombed the station, I was thrust into a position that I'm not sure I was ready for. Even now, years later, I still wonder if I've made the right decisions. If I've handled the situation the way Alexander would have handled it. Everyone on this station is going to look to me for the answers. But what happens when I give the wrong ones?"

"You acknowledge the need to change course and learn from each experience," Lantry offered. She did not want to come across as flippant, but sometimes the most straightforward answers were also the most truthful. "I realize that may sound easier said than done, but from where I'm sitting, command pips don't make anyone invincible or incapable of making a mistake. I do realize command officers are taught to project an air of confidence and certainty, and I will acknowledge a certain amount of that is necessary, but too much of that is not only unrealistic for you, but also rings false for everyone else. In my book, all leadership comes down to trust, and trust is about honesty. If the people in charge aren't comfortable admitting and learning from their mistakes, how can anyone else feel comfortable doing the same? Mistakes will happen. As I see it, the only choice we have is whether we're going to create an environment where people can own up to it or an environment where people feel compelled to hide it."

Von nodded her head along with Lantry's assessment. She knew the counselor was not wrong, but she was also right about it being easier said than done. "You make a good point. I'm not afraid of admitting my mistakes. I'm just afraid of making too many of them."

"How do you define too many and what is it you fear most if you exceed that number?" Marit asked, not being facetious.

Liarra shrugged. "I wish I had a good answer for that question. I just know that when I'm wrong, people's lives are on my hands."

"We're all responsible for each other here, Captain. I grant that command officers are taught the responsibility stops with them, but I try to remember if that were truly the case, there would be no need for properly trained and responsible crew. Even as a civilian, I depended on others to make sure I was able to live well. People to keep the equipment working and doctors to keep me healthy as an example. None of us are ever truly alone or completely independent."

"Maybe so, Marit. Starfleet may do everything they can do to prepare command candidates for knowingly facing situations where members of your crew may die. But they don't prepare you for the reality of it. They don't prepare you for the feelings you face when writing the letters to their families. We may be in this together, but when it's all said and done, mine is the name on the letter, and the one that has to be the bearer of bad news."

"That's true," the therapist acknowledged quietly. "Then again, is that something you really want to be prepared for? It's not the sort of task you want to view as routine. If the goal is to block out the painful feelings, how would you ever know the difference between what is painful and what is not?"

The counselor had a good point, Liarra admitted to herself. Writing letters to the family of fallen crew members was not something that she wanted to ever get used to doing. "No, I suppose it's not. As long as it still feels painful, then at least I know I haven't gone too far off the edge."

Marit offered a small smile. "I'm not sure I would want anyone to experience pain just to prove he or she isn't unstable mentally or emotionally, but I can say to know one is alive, a person has to be able to feel the bitter and the sweet. Otherwise, how would one know?"

A half-smile tugged on Von's lips. "I suppose that's a question we all end up asking ourselves from time to time."

It was good to see the Captain smile. Lantry knew she couldn't take away all the weeds on the other woman's shoulders, but small moments of joy and connection hopefully could use some strain. "I should let you get back to work. Thanks for taking the time, Captain. If you need anything, know I am just a call away."

"Thank you, Marit," Von replied with some hesitation. "I appreciate that."


Captain Liarra Von
Commanding Officer
Starbase 332

Lt. Commander Marit Lantry
Chief Counselor
Starbase 332

 

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